Communities under surveillance

HYPNOMART uses covert footage of shoppers in a suburban mall to study human behaviour, and as source material for the artists’ own manipulations of unsuspecting consumers. In these comprehensively surveilled and clinical environments, tiny gestures are magnified and transmit virally through the crowd. In the Hypnomart watching and voyeurism are inextricable. Whether the subjects of surveillance are shopping in a trance or enacting compulsive rituals for the cameras, sometimes they align themselves in patterns like microbes or herds, or create dances that last mere seconds.



HYPNOMART was devised as a collaboration by artists Joe Magee and Alistair Gentry and commissioned in 2000 by the Arts Council of England and Channel 4. ‘Characters’ were selected from hours of digital video footage and removed from their original environments. The mall was then re-populated and reorganised to create a bizarre, yet logical new environment. Sampled sounds from the mall were similarly selected, manipulated and reorganised.

The emergent ‘story’ of HYPNOMART highlights the journeys of entire family units to shopping centres. Are they just buying things or are they fulfiling other, more primordial, needs? Observing people as they go about their shopping often reveals an apparent state of hypnosis. In passing through the revolving doors the shoppers enter a shared drug-like trance, because the environment is designed to be (or appear) clinical, contained and safe. The proliferation and awareness of surveillance cameras heightens the sense that one is on a set, and on display. The film in part adopts the role of a surveillance camera operator; how can he, she or (increasingly) it deconstruct and interpret such a barrage of minute clues and subtle behaviours?



Joe Magee is an award-winning UK filmmaker and artist. His practice encompasses a range of traditional and electronic media, especially moving image work – experimenting with film, animation, video and interactive art. His work has shown widely at galleries and film festivals internationally – including, in competition, London, Edinburgh and Tampere film festivals, winning several prizes. Magee has twice presented work at the International Symposium of Electronic Arts (Japan, Liverpool) as well as at Watershed, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Victoria and Albert Museum and The National Portrait Gallery. He has artworks in the permanent collections of University of the Arts London and University of Bath.

For several years he has been engaged in a series of collaborations with celebrated British comedic performer and actor Bill Bailey including films, large-scale video art and interactive multimedia works. He has produced works for Bill’s tours, taking in venues such as Wembley and O2 London and Dublin. In 2010 they co-wrote and directed a 12 minute film, Car Park Babylon, shot on 35mm (first broadcast Christmas 2010).

Magee has been a regular contributor of images to The Guardian for twenty years. He has also supplied images to a range of international publications such as LibÈration, Time, New York Times and Newsweek, having upwards of two thousand images published.

In 2009 Magee was awarded two D&AD (British Design and Art Direction) Awards For Outstanding Achievement as the result of a collaboration with designer Theseus Chan’s WORK studio in Singapore. The limited edition arts publication, WERK (No.16), focussed on Magee substantive back catalogue of work.

See Joe’s GEARHEAD, exploring the life of heroin addict on the Knowle West Estate, part of the awardwinning KNOWLE WEST TRILOGY, here.

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